Family Patterns and Stories

For the last few weeks, I’ve been busy researching my DeWitt family line. I went as far back as I could on the computer then started the journey downward.

Some might wonder why I bother to go down a line finding cousins rather than just going back. I guess it’s because I’m curious. Do I know any of my cousins? Is one of my Facebook friends a cousin too? Is it possible that I’m related to a famous actor? (I am…Neil Patrick Harris through the Farrar line of my family. I found out on Finding Your Roots.)

In my search going down the family lines, I have learned that sometimes going down a line helps when going back.That person I hunted for in the 1850 census and couldn’t find through normal methods might be located living with a cousin.

Crawford County

One of the best things about going down a line is learning all the stories in my family or how rooted my family is in an area. For example, Crawford County, Missouri has 25,000 residents. From my research, I would estimate that I’m related to at least 50% of the population. My family settled there in 1832 when my third great-grandfather Allen Davis (1809-1886) purchased land on Dobkin’s farm near Whittenburg Creek. He never left and most didn’t. In fact, my grandfather was one of the few who did when he moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1936. He never returned to his hometown of Davisville to live, only to visit.

My mom’s family has a history of staying rooted in an area, just like the Davis line. Most of her ancestors tended to find a place they liked to live and stayed there for several generations. Even going down different family lines I’ve noticed this pattern (as opposed to my father’s family who never liked to stay in any area for too long).

DeWitt Family

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been researching the DeWitt line of my family. It takes a long time to down each thread of the family. I’ve spent the most time on William Martin DeWitt’s (1826-1900) family. William was the nephew of my direct ancestor, Judith Lloyd DeWitt (1816-1891), my 4th great-grandmother. William, my first cousin five times removed, left Indiana, where he was born and raised, to settle in Nauvoo, Illinois.

The move was motivated by his new religious faith. In January 1839, he was baptized into the Church of Latter-Day Saints. He became a Mormon. And, he wasn’t just any Mormon. He was a pioneer.The Mormon faith was still new, only about 10 years old, when William converted.

As such, William did not stay in Illinois for long. In 1846/7, he traveled with his friend, Brigham Young, to settle in Utah. William did not stay in Utah for the rest of his life. Sometime before 1900, he moved with his wife and settled in Houston, Custer County, Idaho, where he died. Most of his nine children, though, remained in Utah for several generations and most of that line still lives there today.

In fact, his daughter Laura Amanda DeWitt (1858-1932) settled in Box Elder County, Utah after marrying her first husband, Perry Smith. After the end of her first marriage (I’m not sure if it ended due to death or divorce), she married Richard Edward Warburton (1852-1925) and had nine children with him, most of whom stayed in Box Elder as well as their children and grandchildren. See what I mean about patterns?

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A Soldier’s Story

This week as I researched the children of Laura DeWitt, I stumbled on a story that hit me in the gut a bit. The story of her grandson, Thomas Ira Warburton.

Thomas was born to Thomas DeWitt Warburton (1891-1986) and Clara Ethel Frost (1895-1968) on 7 November 1915 in Etna, Utah. After graduating from Box Elder High School (even playing basketball while in school), Ira (the name he went by) got a job. In 1940, he worked as a delivery man for the grocery store while living with his maternal grandmother, Clara Frost. At the end of 1940, Ira married Grace in Salt Lake City, likely at the LDS temple.

A year later, the world changed. On Dec 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pear Harbor. The next day, the United States was at war. I imagine that the next few months left lots of young men with questions on what to do. Would they fight or stay at home? How would they respond?

For Ira, the decision was made on 10 April 1942 when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and went off to school to learn how to be a pilot. Not any pilot, but a bomber pilot for 815th Bomber Squadron. Over a year later, in August 1943, Ira earned his wings and commission. He was now 2nd Lieutenant Thomas Ira Warburton. Soon after, he was sent overseas to help the fight in Europe, leaving his wife, pregnant with their first child, behind.

His baby daughter was born in December or January, but he would never meet her. She would never know her dad. On 16 April 1944, his B-17 disappeared over Yugoslavia, likely shot down. By the end of May, he was officially listed as missing in action. His status would never change. He was never found, but the Army declared his death over a year later on 18 August 1945.

I can’t imagine the pain his loss brought his family, particularly his widow and parents who should never have to bury a child. I’m sure, though, that this hero brought pride.


If you want to know why I love genealogy, it is all the above I just wrote. It is the stories, the history, that I don’t want to leave behind.It is the hero’s like Ira who need to be remembered to the people like William Martin DeWitt who helped change our country’s history, even in the smallest ways.

 

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